HeardTell: The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library

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North Asheville’s Music Scene: There’s More!

 “One of the most popular bands in the sixties in Asheville was Bee Bumble and the Stingers. They were a garage band that the whole neighborhood in Lakeview Park near Robinhood, used to hear practice in their garage. A lot of Asheville’s finest were raised in North Asheville.” [From an oral interview with Nancy Alenier which was the basis of last week’s post on North Asheville’s Music Scene and the Brass Tap.]

“Asheville Citizen-Times” October 29, 1967

The band’s members were Bill Privette, lead guitar and trumpet; Bill Coffey, rhythm guitar and lead singer; Bob Merrill, bass guitar; Mike Davis, organ, and Steven Stewart on the drums; Tony Scott, sax, and not shown in the above photo, Bruce Caldwell, also on sax. Mr. Ray Cain was their manager. They started out as a Dixieland Band, then became a folk group and finally turned to rock and roll.

About five years ago, Mountain Express journalists came to the North Carolina Room for us to help them find information about local garage bands. We had nothing, but helped them in their research. Here’s the link to the third in their remarkable series which covers Bee Bumble and the Stingers. “Asheville’s 60’s Garage Rock Scene.”

So, other than the Brass Tap and all of its pre and post incarnations at 633 Merrimon Avenue–that were so essential to Asheville’s live music scene–

there was also the Cosmic Ballroom!

 

“Asheville Citizen-Times” March 14, 1976

which was “Located Under Roses on Merrimon Avenue.”

That would be the current location of ‘under Stein Mart’ at 848 Merrimon Avenue.

Barbara Blake, in a 1976 newspaper article, “Young Seek Own Nightclubs” wrote that prior to 1976 Asheville’s music scene had “a history of conservative entertainment aimed at the mature adult crowd.” But now, “there’s a fresh new sound in Asheville.” (Asheville Citizen-Times March 14, 1976.)

The Cosmic Ballroom, operated by Jerry Mitchell, was known for it’s “lighted dance floor, reflecting every hue in the rainbow while gaily-clothed dancers move wild and free in front of vast mirrors.”

And there was Doc’s Rock Shop, too.

Dr. Robert R. White, who held a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, opened Doc’s Rock Shop in 1974 in the previous Chez Paul nightclub–and it opened in time for New Year’s Eve with the newspaper reporting the bar was “jammed and swinging.” Doc’s offered a giant 27-square-foot television screen in one room, said to be “Asheville’s first big screen and the first this side of Knoxville.” Dr. White also installed a sound system “powerful enough to fill four football stadiums . . . with the maximum distortion of .003.” He doubled the Chez Paul dance floor and added a color organ at ceiling height around the entire room. Color flashed through glass paneling along the top of the walls, changing to the frequency of the music. (Asheville Citizen-Times Dec. 28, 1974.)

Nancy Alenier remembers Doc’s as a disco and recalls the disco ball. “It was a real hang out. It was a rock place, and rock in North Asheville was inconceivable. I call it gritty. I call it soul.”

Both discotheques had a standard admission of $1 per person every night and offered a place where young people could laugh, and dance and have a beer . . . and call the place their own. As Barbara Blake put it so well, “Something about the mystical lights, the pulsating music and the smoke-filled dimness generates a a magnetic feeling of unison among the people who keep coming back night after night, week after week.”

One thing I didn’t understand though was a house rule common to both the clubs was that “no marijuana is smoked inside.”

 

AA051

Circa 1950s-60s postcard of Chez Paul Restaurant which was operated by Paul and Gabrielle Houdeille from 1934 to 1952 when they sold it to the McKenzies, owners of the Asheville Fish Company, who continued the restaurant.

Speaking of the earlier conservative entertainment, while mention is made of Chez Paul, in another North Asheville oral interview with Tricia Pinkston Coxey, who grew up at 136 Windsor Road, she recalls Sunday night at Chez Paul’s as family only. Saturday night was for grown ups. “The moms and dads would get dressed up and they’d have live music. And I want to say that that’s about the only place around that you could get live music. And you had to have reservations.”

 

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.

Do you have any photographs of these important locations from Asheville’s music scene, or know of anyone who might? We are also looking for photographs of Merrimon Avenue during this time period. If you have any photographs of North Asheville that you think deserve to be documented, please give us the opportunity to scan them and add them to our Special Collection database. Please contact the North Carolina Room at 828-250-4740.

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